A Festschrift in Honour of A.V.C. Schmidt
Edited By Nicolas Jacobs and Gerald Morgan
Julian of Norwich and Medieval English Visual Culture
← 184 | 185 → BARRY WINDEATT
It has often been wondered whether and how Julian of Norwich was influenced by the contemporary visual arts which she may have seen around her in Norwich.2 There is ample evidence for a particularly flourishing devotional culture in medieval Norwich with its cathedral priory, houses of the four orders of friars, one Benedictine nunnery, various secular colleges and hospitals, and its especially high number of parish churches.3 This vibrant culture of devotion was in turn the context for many artistic commissions, and on the basis of what survives much of this work will have been of exceptional quality.4 Julian of Norwich – who lived at the heart of this thriving centre of artistic activity and achievement in late medieval Norwich – shows in her writing a particularly vivid sense of the visual, with the power to leave intensely realized images in the minds of her readers. But the possibility of influences on Julian from the contemporary arts is usually discounted for lack of evidence. At first sight, there are few surviving artworks which support close comparison with Julian’s writing, and many potentially relevant East Anglian works probably post-date Julian’s lifetime.
This essay attempts a different approach to the nature of a possible relationship between the arts and Julian’s writing. In the absence of many models for influence from known paintings upon Julian’s writing, it focuses instead on some structural parallels and stylistic analogies, comparing common patterns in uses of iconographical conventions as well as...
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